County Wrestles With ‘Animal Hoarding' Issues

The images are horrific: Floors completely covered with trash and feces, filthy matresses and bathrooms in shocking conditions.

"You do know walking into these houses that your eyes will burn," said Lt. Dan Desousa of the San Diego County Department of Animal Services. "Your eyes will sting. Your eyes will water."

WARNING: DISTURBING IMAGES -- County Releases Animal Hoarding Photos

There have been more reports recently of animal hoarding in San Diego. In extreme cases, dozens of pets will live under one roof in gruesome conditions.

"You can see up to 100 animals in a house, no problem, with some of these hoarders," DeSousa said.

In March, the department of animal services seized more than 60 dogs at a Lakeside home.

"They start off with, like, five or six dogs, and then they just get overwhelmed, and then they get up to 20 dogs and it's just too much for them," said Mary Jane Mitchell of Dog Rescue.

Sometimes, the owners don't even know how many animals they have.

"When it comes to cats, a lot of the times we'll go ahead and ask, 'Well, how many cats do you have?' and they'll say, 'I don't know,' " Desousa said.

For some, the problem can be a mental health disease.

"They do not see anything wrong with how these animals are kept," DeSousa said. "They say, 'Well, the alternative is that you guys are going to take them and put them to sleep. So why can't the animal just live its life here with me?' "

The mental health issues can lead to other physical ailments.

"A lot of them have medical conditions," DeSousa said. "They have upper respiratory infections. They have urine burns on their feet from sitting and laying in urine all the time and laying on it."

The county frequently ends up going into the homes and taking the animals away.

"Those animals are going to go to rescue groups, those animals are going to be placed up for adoption," DeSousa said.

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